'Andy', a Christian, wrote to Mike, webmaster of Jesus Christ, the Bible and Fundamentalism - Hope or Hoax?. As I was free to reply to Andy, I did so; the response is as follows.
However, before setting this out, it is interesting to note that:
(i)While Christians make repeated references to their faith being supported by 'fact(s)', they rarely seem able to supply these.
(ii)The main 'support' for their faith is actually their experience. As an ex-fundamentalist myself I know only only well the effects of becoming an evangelical Christian. Nonetheless the dramatic life-changing experience which often occurs is not unique to Christianity but is found in other religious and even non-religious lifestyles. Therefore the Christian experience offers no support for its theology.
(iii)Inexplicably, despite the somewhat obvious fact that I do not accept the Bible has any validity, Christians invariably continue to cite verses from this to 'prove'(?) the various points they are trying to make...
>Have gone over your site painstakingly, and what I have
>come up with is a person with a very fixed mind. A very
>determined person who has misunderstood the Bible for what
>it truly is. Your zealous passion to disprove, upset and
>discredit the Bible drives the point home without question.
Although you say Mike 'misunderstands' the Bible, you conveniently omit to support this accusation with any evidence. With regard to having a 'fixed mind', this criticism is somewhat ironic coming from a Christian who has to comply with a fixed dogma unlike atheists who can formulate ideas and concepts according to the empirical data available to them.
>With emphasis on the alleged contradictions; each and
>every one of them can be answered. Particularly the ones
>you've exposed in your site.
Unfortunately, again, you choose not to support this claim. Of course all Bible adherents will contort and wrestle with conflicting texts until they agree. To any reasonable person this demonstrates only too clearly the dishonesty of theism.
How can it be 'God breathed' with (for example) statements such as:-
Jehoiachin was 8 years old when he began his reign - 2 Chron 36:9.
Jehoiachin was 18 years old when he began his reign - 2 Kings 24:8.
According to Luke 2:21-39, Jesus is taken to the Jerusalem Temple eight days after he is born; the family then go up to Nazareth. In Matt 2:14-23, after being born the family flee in Egypt and stay there until Herod dies; even on returning, they avoid Judea and go up to Nazareth.
Jesus baptised - John 3:22.
Jesus did not baptise - John 4:2.
No one has ascended into heaven before Jesus - John 3:13.
Elijah ascended into heaven - 2 Kings 2:11.
Jesus refuses to give signs - Matt 12:38,39, Mark 8:12, Luke 11:29.
Jesus did give signs - John 3:2, 20:30, Acts 2:22.
The Synoptics make it clear the last supper was the Passover meal - Matt 26:19, Mark 14:16, Luke 22:13. However in John, it was held on the day before the Passover - 13:29, and states that even after the meal the Passover had still not begun - 18:28. Moreover, even after the trial, it was the Preparation day for the Passover - 19:31.
Abraham was justified by faith - Rom 4:1-5.
Abraham was justified by works - James 2:22-24.
Man does not die for his ancestors' sin - Deut 24:16, 2 Kings 14:6, Ezek 18:20.
Man does die for his ancestors' sin - Ex 20:5, 34:6-7, 2 Sam 12:13-18, Isa 14:21, Rom 5:12,19, 1 Cor 15:22.
Jesus to be buried for three days and nights - Matt 12:40.
Jesus buried for one day and two nights - Mark 15:42,43, John 20:1 (These texts show the burial did not take place until Friday night and the tomb was empty before Sunday morning). Jesus was therefore not in the tomb for "three days and three nights" - whether Roman or Jewish time-reckoning is used.
No one is righteous - Rom 3:10.
There are righteous - James 5:16.
The sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgiveable - Matt 12:32, Mark 3:29.
God forgives all sins - 1 John 1:7.
No one has ever seen God - Ex 33:17,20, John 1:18, 1 Tim 6:15-16.
People have seen God - Gen 32:30, Ex 24:9-10, 33:11,21- 23, Isa 6:5, Deut 5:24, Amos 9:1.
God wants everyone to be saved - 1 Tim 2:3-4, 2 Pet 3:9.
God does not want everyone to be saved - Prov 16:4, Mark 4:11-12, Rom 9:18, 2 Thess 2:11.
>What you are not understanding (and understandably so)
>is that God's ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our
>thoughts, as the heavens are above the earth, so are His ways
>higher then ours and His thoughts then our thoughts.
If this is the case, then how can Christians manage to speak about God?
>What you are doing as many do, is trying to bring an
>infinite God down to a mere finite level and rationalize
>Him on that level. Its not possible.
This comment is rather bewildering. Surely the whole basis of Christian theology is that, through the incarnation, God did become a finite man to whom humankind can relate? (John 1:14, Hebrews 4:14-15).
>I've gone over this with so many who dare to do the
>same thing ad infinitum ad nauseum. We can understand God in
>and only as much as He has allowed us to. No more, no less.
>God transcends the human mind my friend. What you bring
>about here is merely finite rationale, it doesn't even
>stand up to the Bible.
But the image of God in the Bible is contradictory. Therefore we cannot know him. The Bible advises us of a deity who never changes (Malachi 3:6) but actually does frequently change his mind and even regrets what he's done ("repents") - Genesis 6:6,7, Exodus 32:14, 1 Samuel 15:35, 2 Samuel 24:16, 1 Chronicles 21:l5, Jeremiah 18:8,10, 26:3,13,19, 42:10, Ezekiel 24:14, Joel 2:13, Amos 7:3. Although it is to be noted that Numbers 23:19 and 1 Samuel 15:2 say that God never repents.
It states that God is "spirit", i.e., non-physical (John 4:24) and yet he is always called 'him' or 'he' as if he had a male body, and then it states that although spirit, he has feet (Psalm 18:9), arms (Jeremiah 27:5), wings (Psalm 36:7), hands (Job 27:11), eyes ( Deuteronomy 8:3), a mouth (Isaiah 1:20), ears (2 Chronicles 6:40), nostrils (Exodus 15:8) and legs (Genesis 3:8). He also uses a razor - Isaiah 7:20. He also occasionally roars (Joel 3:16) and sometimes he even whistles (Isaiah 5:26). Although he has never been seen (John 1:18), he has actually been seen (Isa 6:1), and he even revealed his rear to Moses (Exodus 33:21-22)...
If the God of the Bible is truly God, then there is a dilemma; for God to be God, he has to be omnipotent, responsible for the creation of everything, and this includes evil; if he did not create evil, then he was not wholly creative, and therefore cannot be God. In fact the Bible does say that God commits and/or is responsible for evil, e.g., Exodus 32:14, 2 Sam 24:16, 1 Chron 21:15, Jer 18:8, 26:3,13,19, Jonah 3:10. Furthermore, he sends lying spirits (1 Kings 22:23, 2 Chronicles 18:22) and deliberately deceives people (2 Thessalonians 2:11). And not only this, he admits to being responsible for the creation of evil and misery (Isaiah 45:7), and that he has deliberately made people so he can destroy them (Proverbs 16:4).
He condemns killing (Exodus 20:13) but orders it (Exodus 32:27); he encourages wisdom (Proverbs 4:7) but condemns it (1 Corinthians 1:19); he protects the righteous (Proverbs 12:21) but does not (Hebrews 11:36-37); he cuts off the wicked (Proverbs 10:27) but does not (Job 21:7-9); he commands respect for parents (Exodus 20:12) but encourages hatred for them (Luke 16:9); he blesses peace (Matt 5:9) but brings war (Matt 10:34, Revelation 19:11).
God will keep the earth (Ecclesiastes 1:4), but destroy it (2 Peter 3:10); is invisible and unseen (John 1:18, 1 Timothy 6:15-16) but has been seen (Amos 9:1, Deuteronomy 5:24); he lives in dazzling light (1 Timothy 6:15-16), but dwells in darkness (1 Kings 8:12)..... If this is God 'revealing' himself, then he has done a remarkably poor job...
>which is the inspired "written Word."
>It has stood the test of time through the most passionately
>zealous, intellectual, relentless, aggressive, determined
>scholarly minds of all time.
In fact it is the very reverse. Until recent centuries, anyone criticising or questioning the Bible/Christian belief would be severely punished*. It is only in the last century that the majority have been able to speak their minds, and indeed, that is precisely the situation as we can see on the internet, etc. * In Britain, people were still being sent to prison for blasphemy in the 1960s.
Incidentally, if the Bible is God's perfect inspired word through which he reveals himself, why is there over 2000 different protestant churches each with different beliefs but all saying that they are following Biblical teaching?
>Because you can't figure out God, or why things appear
>the way they do, or you don't understand something, or
>something just doesn't seem logical is absolutely no
>criterion for determining fallacy.
At one point you say God transcends everything but now you say Mike's problem is not understanding God. Which is it? The reason why Mike and others challenge Christians is, quite simply, because they fail to answer questions posed.
>Christianity is for real. We have a definite position here.
A definite position? With over 2000 different denominations?
Moreover, you criticized Mike above for being a 'person with a very fixed mind' but now you are saying that you have a definite stance? Why should you be able to do what you condemn others for?
>If we did not, the Bible would have been banished out of
>existence long long ago. But it cannot be, and it will
>not be because it is the very transcendent, inerrant, inspired
>Word of God.
You say that as the Bible has not been destroyed and it has survived, this is evidence that it is the 'the very transcendent, inerrant, inspired Word of God'. However how do you explain the Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist scriptures also surviving? Adopting your argument means they too must be 'the very transcendent, inerrant, inspired Word of God'...
>Your site is very constructive and eloquent. It
>>is more then obvious that you are very intelligent,
>however, up against the infinite Lord of all
>principality, it doesn't weigh very much.
The evidence for this?
>No offense, that goes for all of us. However, it is also
>painfully obvious that you have been hurt, and/or
>let down somewhere.
You are a psychotherapist as well as a trained theologian?
>Madelyn Murray O'Hair was such a woman.
Whoever she may be....
>No one is trying to twist your arm my friend, or
>persuade you to believe in that which you do not wish
>to believe, however, it suffices to say that there
>are answers to much, and in many cases there are
>answers that we just don't have. Not all the answers are
>available, but that is no reason to discredit
>something. Not on that basis. We can't explain the
>composition of electricity, but we do not deny its
>validity. Somethings do indeed remain a mystery, however,
>the centrality of God's message to mankind is quite
>overt and clear.
You are confusing events or objects for which there is evidence but are not fully understood (e.g. black holes), and religious beliefs for which there is no evidence at all.
With regard to God's universal message for mankind, why then does the Bible say that God deliberately deceives people (2 Thessalonians 2:11), he admits to being responsible for the creation of evil and misery (Isaiah 45:7), and that he has deliberately made people so he can destroy them (Proverbs 16:4) and speaks so that people will not understand (Mark 4:11-12)?
>God has not left us in the dark by any stretch of the
>imagination. And, He has intrinsically placed in mankind
>a void that only "HE" can fill.
And this brings us to an interesting point. Although you (repeatedly) say that you rely upon the Bible for knowledge of God's will, your beliefs do not come from the Bible but from what other Christians have told you to believe. If you had developed your beliefs from the Bible rather than these being spoon-fed to you by others, you would, for example, no doubt believe that Jesus is not omniscient (Mark 13:32), Jesus is inferior to God (John 14:28, 1 Cor 11:3) and all Christians should be celibate (1 Cor 7:32-34, Rev 14:4), death represents a mode of non-existence (Eccl 9:5), and so on. Numerous beliefs that you have, e.g. Sunday worship, a weekly eucharist, etc, are non-scriptural.
>Everyone knows there is a God including you!
Now you're just being puerile.
>No one will be with excuse, not one man! So, it isn't
>that you can't believe the Bible, its that you refuse
>to believe it. Big difference.
In view of its contradictions, inconsistencies, immoralities, and absurdities, it is hardly surprising.
>There are answers to your many of your questions,
>and proof to many of your objections.
Although you choose not to give any?
>Christianity is for real, and we have a definite
You are repeating yourself now.
>These are facts! However, we either choose to
>except it, or choose to reject it. We do indeed have
>the freedom of choice.
Facts? What facts? Instead of this rather tedious rhetoric it would be more useful if you supplied a few 'facts'.
And now we return to what is always said to Christian writers.....
Many people such as myself would welcome a Christian supplying a complete and coherent, detailed account of the easter Sunday events, in chronological order, to agree with the details in Matthew 28, Luke 24, John 20-21, Acts 1, and 1 Cor 15:3-8.
You say that the Bible is God's word but the 27 writings in the New Testament were selected after the fourth century when the church had become worldly (Constantine, etc). If you say 'Well, I still believe God was responsible for the selection', the obvious question is why did the early Christians use a different set of writings?
As the Christian faith is based on the life and death of Christ, why is there no extra-Biblical record of his existence before the second century, and the only information concerning an earthly life are the four anonymous Gospels?
I now find myself asking much the same questions that I did with a previous writer, i.e.,
Why so many Christians fail to comply with Biblical statements? For example, Christ is said to have raised the dead, walked on water, cured all manner of illnesses, and in John 14:12, he is reported to have said:-'He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do...'. Consequently, Christians should be achieving not only all that Christ is said to have done, but even more than this. And yet, this is not so. Why not?
Christ is reported to have told his disciples that the follower must 'take up his cross and follow me' (Matt 10:38, 16;24) and lose his life for Christ's sake (Matt 10:39, 16:25). How many Christians do this? Do you? Luke 14:26 has Christ saying that: 'if anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children...he cannot be my disciple' (NB. The Greek word rendered 'hate' here means 'to hate, usually implying ill-will in words and conduct or a persecuting spirit'. Bullinger). Do you hate your parents, spouse and/or children?
In Matt 19:24 Christ is reported as warning: 'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God'. Despite puerile attempts to give this a 'symbolic' or 'allegorical' meaning, the statement is absolutely clear: the 'rich' cannot enter heaven (Luke 16:19-23 emphasises this point.
Note how the faith or lack of faith of either man is not even mentioned: all we are told is that the rich man went to hell and the poor man/beggar to paradise). 'Rich' in first century Palestine would normally be understood as those who had wealth which far exceeded their day-to-day needs. However, on looking at the lifestyle of most Christians in the West (particularly fundamentalists), such people certainly satisfy the term 'rich' by owning their own home (or homes), the size of which far exceeds their actual need, many owning a car, or several cars, and having a plethora of material goods. The vast majority also have savings, investment portfolios, pension schemes, and so on (Ironically, such people are usually the first to proclaim 'moral' judgements on others).
Furthermore, this is also in stark contrast to Acts 2:44-45 which reports that believers: 'had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need'. How many Christians do this? Do you? In Matt 5:42, Jesus is reported to have instructed: 'Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you'. How many Christians do this? Do you?
Surely it is only reasonable to expect Christians to be complying with scriptural instructions before they begin preaching to others?
I have found that all Christians I meet 'customize' their faith to suit their desired lifestyle. Anything in the Bible that conflicts with how they want to live is ignored or is deemed 'allegorical' or 'symbolic' or 'no longer binding'. This I find to be very dishonest although it further highlights the element of self-deception which is necessary for all religious belief.
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